How to Survive and Thrive During a Job Layoff

Would you bet me $100 that you’d have a 45-year career without a job layoff?  Consider our growing gig economy.  Consider that your boss is constantly figuring out how to fire you.    Keep your $100 — you might just need it if you get laid off.  You’ll also need these tips…

(Can I tell you about Tracey?  She’s today’s guest blogger, but more.  I’ve known Tracey and her husband separately since college, when they were just friends.  She was also one of my InterVarsity ministry leaders.  This should tell you a lot about Tracey, who decided to forego more lucrative career paths to work with dorky students like me.

Tracey Gee is a working mom of 2 who blogs about that crazy journey on her site balanceisboring. She covers topics related to thriving at work and at home such as leadership, faith, feeding a family, parenting, and style.  I’m hoping she shares some behind-the-scenes stories of student ministry!)

4 Tips for Surviving (and Thriving!) During a Job Layoff

The timing couldn’t have been worse.

A few years ago, our family of four went through a job layoff when my husband’s struggling firm had to let him go.  This was right after we moved and had taken on a bigger mortgage.  We’d dealt with this situation before but now we had two kids depending on us.

Dismissal from work ranks as one of the most stressful life events a person can go through which sits on a list of things like death of a close family member or divorce.

(If you’re laid off while married, you’ve become a brittle wafer.  You’re just one more life event from developing a stress-induced illness.  So let’s learn to make a job layoff less stressful.)

We were stressed. We felt vulnerable. We had no idea how long it would take for my husband to find a new job. We’d heard anecdotes of people searching for months without luck. We wanted to be hopeful but also realistic. We didn’t know how to tell our kids or whether to tell them at all.

We didn’t know if we would make it through that time.

In the end, we did make it. Thankfully it was a rather short season and my husband started at a new firm a little over a month later. We survived. And here’s what I learned through this experience about how to deal with being unemployed.

  1. Learn how to trim your spending without being utterly deprived.

Surviving on one less paycheck felt like quite the challenge. Here are a few things I tried to trim our spending as much as possible but while also still trying to enjoy life. My husband applied for unemployment right away but beyond that there were other creative things that we did to cut back.

    • Find Free Fun:  I became the queen of free fun around town. Parks, free museum days, and the beach were just a few of the ways that we still had fun together but without spending a lot. These kinds of things are actually pretty plentiful. I compiled my list of favorites that we still utilize today.
    • Meal Plan:  I’ve always been one for meal planning but I took it to the next level trying to figure out how I could feed my family of 4 on $75 or less a week. I declared whole weeks “scrounge weeks” where we would buy some fruits and vegetables but use up long-forgotten pantry and freezer items. Some meals were very “creative.” I shopped at ethnic grocery stores that were a little further out of the way but a lot less expensive.
    • Un-Unuse Gift Certificates:  We had a small pile of gift certificates that we had never used – places that were more out of the way for us or just not as easy to access. The best one was a restaurant gift certificate that was probably a decade old. It was kind of a drive for us but financial desperation provided new motivation. The manager said he had never seen a paper gift certificate like that but he honored it and we had a free meal plus a new adventure.
    • Clean and Declutter to Rediscover: This may sound weird but cleaning often helps you rediscover items that you thought were lost or keep you from rebuying items that you already had but forgot about. Cleaning can actually save you money!
    • Homemake Gifts:  Instead of spending a lot of money on gifts, I made a meal or a batch of homemade granola for friends on their birthday.
    • Cheap Eats:  Our family enjoys food and eating out so we didn’t cut it out altogether but we tried to be strategic with our choices. We took advantage of good, cheap food around our city. In a place like Los Angeles, there are a lot of great options for this but it applies anywhere.
    • Swap Babysitting:  Another idea that really helped in this season is trading off babysitting with another family. One week they babysit for us and the next week we do it for them so that we can go out for a date without spending money on childcare.

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  1. Remember that everything you have has always been given by God.

I work in a faith-based nonprofit where I am financially supported by churches and individuals who believe in the work I’m doing and put their charitable giving toward that. So it is pretty obvious that my salary is given by God and I need to depend on him for it. But this experience made me realize how much that is true for everyone.

Just because you draw a monthly paycheck from an employer or a company doesn’t mean that you don’t also need to rely on God for it. It served as a powerful reminder of that truth and helped us when we started to feel overwhelmed by anxiety and fear of the future.

  1. Be creative about ways to make more money.

  • Side Hustle:  We learned about the idea of having a side hustle. This season highlighted the need of not having 100% of your income be reliant on your day job. I read some books on the subject and have a tried a few things since. Because of that, my husband got some freelance work with a reputable publisher for his design work that really helped offset the lost income which was a huge help.
  • Mystery Shop:  Another small way I helped offset costs was I learned how to be a mystery shopper. If you’re not familiar, you sign up with a mystery shopping company and they send you out to businesses (usually restaurants.) In return for a detailed report, they cover your expenses and sometimes give you a little bit of extra pay.

I actually kept going with it even after my husband found another job. Over a one-year period I made about $100.  While not much, I also got about $750 of free meals or merchandise covered. So, when we had date nights we’d go to a place that I had a mystery shop. Sure, it’s kind of a drag to have to submit receipts and write a detailed report but it was really nice to be able to have those free meals. Some of them were for really nice places that we would have enjoyed going to anyway and some allow for kids to come along too!

  1. Use it as a chance for your kids to learn.

At the time, our kids were pretty young and my husband and I debated telling them about what had happened. We certainly didn’t want to scare them. We also didn’t want to pretend that everything was business as normal. So, after talking about it with one another, we decided to tell our kids.

 

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We made sure to emphasize the positive and told them that we were sure everything was going to be fine but that we would have to work together. I think my youngest was pretty oblivious but my older son definitely could understand what was going on. They became extra sweet. It was like they knew that this was a time that we needed to pull together as a family.

During those weeks, when we’d have to explain that we wouldn’t be able to buy books at the bookstore (as is our usual tradition when we go to the dentist) or not go out to eat, they definitely felt the pinch and would sometimes complain. But they also adjusted. One afternoon I asked them, “What is God teaching you by spending less?” My eldest said, “He’s teaching me that I can be happy with less.”

Finding True Stability Beyond a Job

Our friends and family were amazing during this time. And with their love and support and some of these practical tools, we made it through this time not just getting by but it really deepened our lives in some important ways. It’s not something I would ever willingly repeat because it was brutal emotionally. But I have to admit that we came out of it with some positive things.

Probably one the best was an email my dad sent. If you’re going through a season like this, I’ll leave you with what my dad wrote to my husband after I told my mom the news. It was hands down one of the best bright spots of this unemployment season.

“I heard about the drawback news from Mom. Well, it is simply a fact of life. I am glad that you took it so well. This type of thing happened to me a few times before, and in fact, I found it helpful that it gave me time to rethink through my life concerns. Meanwhile, keep a positive attitude toward job searching. A right job is waiting for you, I am sure.”

That didn’t magically make all of the hard parts disappear but it made them feel lighter. If you’re going through something like this, I want to do for you what my dad did for us and tell you:

Unemployment sucks but I made it through and I know you can too.  Hang in there.

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2 Comments

  • Ming November 4, 2017 at 4:14 am

    Great tips you have there! My husband and I also went through sudden job loss before. Back then, we were not married yet. It was a difficult time, but we had the faith that things will only get better. And it did:)

    Thanks again for sharing your experience! by the way, you have a great dad!

    Reply
    • Tracey Gee November 4, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      Oh thanks so much, Ming. Yeah it is so stressful but bound to happen at some point! Hope you’re doing well. 🙂

      Reply

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